herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Victoria White

I have my finger on the trigger. Just a few clicks of the mouse and my 16-year-old could be dispatched for long days of water sports and language learning on the western seaboard.

No more worries about boredom and obesity, drink and the internet.

He'd be gone west on a bus and someone else would be paid to worry about him. It costs €950 for two weeks so I'll have to put my trigger finger back in my pocket. But it's not just the money stopping me.

It's the sense of the total madness of the situation I'm in, with two teens sitting at home for 12 long weeks.

Or in the case of the 16-year-old "graduate" of Transition Year, 14 weeks. My friend has counted them up on her calendar.

holiday

She works full-time and her 16-year-old is doing a German camp as well as going to the Gaeltacht .

She's spent three grand before the family goes on holiday this summer.

And that's only nibbling at the amount of time her eldest has to lounge around while she sits worrying about him in her office.

Try getting a 16-year-old out of the sack over the phone in front of your colleagues. It's embarrassing. It's also impossible. At least they have money to throw at the situation.

But even if I had the money, I'm not sure I'd want to send my children off for endless self-improvement as if they were from Beverly Hills.

I'd be scared they'd end up taking everything for granted. Expecting life to be organised for them and paid for out of Mam's purse.

Worse than that, they might get the message that it's worth anything to get them out of my face.

When they're gasping for the message that they're worth something.

We need to call a halt to this summer madness.

It's not just a case of getting the State exams held in halls, not in schools, which would mean secondary school could get off at the same time as primary school.

That's certainly a hard shoulder I'd like built into the Lansdowne Road Agreement. But I wouldn't like them in school right through the summer.

I don't see anything to envy in the British system which has pale-faced kids emerging at the end of July when the sun is about to go down. In fact I think those kids are to be pitied.

The countries with short school holidays don't necessarily do well by education. Finland is meant to have the best school system in the world and they have long summer holidays to make the most of the long days, with about two weeks' more school than us overall. What our older teens need more than anything else is work.

The local authorities could run and fund organised volunteering and it could count for something in the assessment of our kids' years in school.

They don't need more school as much as they need practical skills, a social life and fresh air. Their young bodies desperately need exercise. Leaving them sitting on the couch all summer is setting them up for a lifetime of health issues.

stacked

Our communities could do with the input of these young people. Our elderly need their grass cut, our parks need cleaning up, our charity shops need their shelves stacked when their staff go on holidays.

We could get the most amazing benefits if we valued our kids enough to help them give something back to their communities instead of cutting them loose for a quarter of the year.

The State needs to recognise the long, idle teen summers as a social problem, particularly for the worst-off kids, whose grades sometimes never recover if they make it back to school at all. We need to find a way to help kids work their bodies giving back to their communities instead of working their mouths giving cheek to us.

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